There are a few things at stake in this matchup, mostly for Michigan. The Wolverines still have a chance to get a piece of the Big Ten regular-season title and likely need to win out, but they also have a shot for a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament, also if they win out. Maryland just needs to bounce back after getting rocked by Penn State on Wednesday. The good news for the Terps is that they haven’t lost at home in Conference play.
Michigan won the first matchup fairly easily a couple weeks ago, getting a big lead in the first half and never giving it up despite a couple second-half runs in a 65-52 win. The big thing for the Terps is that they have to win at the positions they’re supposed to win at. That means Bruno Fernando and Jalen Smith in the paint against Jon Teske and Ignas Brazdeikis. It was an even matchup in that first Game mostly because Michigan’s bigs chucked up threes with Teske and Brazdeikis combining to go 4-for-15 from deep. On the other end, Fernando and Smith didn’t do enough going 8-for-18 inside the arc. That didn’t mesh well with the 16 turnovers the team had.
To win this one at home, Fernando has to consistently win his matchup against the taller Teske and Smith has to keep Brazdeikis on lock with his length. Otherwise, there isn’t another area the Terps have an edge in and that’s why they scored 52 points in the first Game. That includes leading scorer Anthony Cowan (15.9 ppg), who couldn’t do anything against Zavier Simpson. He rarely found his shot en route to 10 points, while Simpson dropped 12 points, five boards and eight assists on the other side. To help, Charles Matthews, who led Michigan with 14 points in the first meeting, is dealing with a sprained ankle. The bad part is that Isaiah Livers stepped in against Nebraska and Michigan kind of looked better as he had 12 points and 10 boards. Either way, Maryland will be at a disadvantage against the likes of Jordan Poole, Livers and maybe Matthews.
Eric Ayala and Darryl Morsell were completely taken out of the first Game and combined for just two points. Aaron Wiggins had 15 off the bench, but it’s usually not good when your bench option is the best scorer in the Game. Given how these teams are built, it was surprising that Maryland didn’t put up a bigger fight in the first Game. At home, the result could easily change if Fernando (14.2 ppg) puts in a big effort, though he’s failed to surpass 14 points since January. It’s the same case for Smith (11.2 ppg), who hasn’t reached double-digits in the last Four Games.
Maryland has a balanced team, but if Cowan can’t deal with Simpson again, the Terps will need to get more out of everyone else. With the bigs struggling to put in consistent performances, that makes it harder to bet on them. But the Terps have already beaten Purdue by 14 points at home and the Wolverines have three of their Four losses on the road. So while some of the numbers don’t point to the home team, it still makes sense to take them.
Our Pick – We rate this Game dead even. So, we’ll take any points available with the underdog.